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Troubles Force 2-Week Delay of Equidome Concert Series

Times Staff Writer

The controversial summer concert series at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Griffith Park, which was scheduled to start this weekend, has been postponed for two weeks because of planning difficulties and a lack of publicity, center officials said Monday.

J. Albert Garcia, president of the financially troubled equestrian center, said the decision to delay the start of the series until July 13 was prompted by recent conflict between Equestrian Center officials and a group of Burbank residents who live near the center.

The residents had lobbied Burbank and Los Angeles city officials in an attempt to stop the concerts, arguing that they would cause noise and traffic congestion, and asserting that the music events fall outside the horse-related purpose of the equestrian center.

The dispute reached an uneasy resolution two weeks ago when Los Angeles Parks and Recreation commissioners refused to act on a recommendation by city staff members that the concerts be blocked. The commissioners said they did not know if they had a legal right to halt the series.

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But conflict between the residents and the center may soon intensify anew.

Beach Boys to Perform

Center officials announced Monday that the Beach Boys will perform an afternoon concert Aug. 17. The concert will be held in the Grand Prix arena in the rear of the center, which can accommodate up to 15,000 spectators. Garcia said the performance will be a benefit for Ahead With Horses, a nonprofit organization that assists severely handicapped children.

Neighborhood advocate David Bender, who has opposed several activities at the center, said area residents “will do everything possible to stop it. It will be havoc. How will they handle the noise and traffic of 15,000 people?”

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Bender and other area residents said they would appear before the Burbank City Council tonight in an effort to convince council members to act to stop the concerts.

The center is on the Los Angeles side of the Los Angeles-Burbank border, and is owned by the City of Los Angeles.

Garcia said opposition to the concerts is being provoked by a small group of residents who are “trying to stop anything we try to do. How can they complain about a charity event? We will make arrangements to keep things orderly, and to arrange for traffic and parking.”

He said the center had already lost a “significant amount of money and time” in planning the concerts because of the disputes. Garcia said some of that money was in the form of advances paid to the performers, but he declined to elaborate.

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The center is still trying to reorganize its finances after filing last year for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The center also has been involved in a multimillion-dollar legal battle with its principal lender, Gibraltar Savings of Beverly Hills, and has fallen thousands of dollars behind in tax payments to the state and in rental payments to the City of Los Angeles.

Among the acts scheduled to perform during the two-month concert series are the band Three Dog Night, soul singer James Brown and country singer Sawyer Brown.

One deletion from the list of scheduled performers is country singer Ronnie Milsap. Milsap withdrew from a scheduled August concert because he is performing in San Bernardino and Anaheim during the same period and had decided “for marketing career reasons” not to perform at the Equestrian Center, a spokesman for Milsap said.

Polo Matches With Concerts

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All the concerts are being staged in conjunction with polo matches, which will be played following the concerts. The concert-game package is being promoted in order to introduce the equestrian center and professional polo to an expanded audience, Garcia said.

With the exception of the Beach Boys performance, all of the concerts will be held inside the 4,300-seat Equidome.

Garcia said the Beach Boys would attract more people to the Equidome than could be accommodated for the subsequent polo match. He said arrangements are being made to stage equestrian-related demonstrations and exhibits around the center after the concert.

Season tickets for the five-concert series, which will include reserved seating for the Beach Boys concert, will go on sale this week at the center box office and Ticketmaster outlets, Garcia said. The season tickets will sell for $90 to $120. Tickets to individual events will cost from $15 to $20.

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